If you have a lung condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, you might also experience common symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Anxiety is the physical, mental, and emotional reaction to stress. Both can be calmed through the practice of yoga breathing, also called pranayama.
When anxiety gets out of control, it can disrupt your daily life and your sleep. Yoga breathing can help you regain control.
Let’s take a look at some different breathing techniques you can use to calm stress and anxiety in your life.
The first step in calming stress and anxiety through yoga breathing is simply becoming aware of your breath. To start, sit in a comfortable spot, either leg crossed or on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
If sitting is too uncomfortable for you, try this exercise while lying down. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and pay attention to your breath as it flows into and out of your body.
Try placing your left hand over your belly and your right over your heart. After taking a few deep breaths in and out, breathe normally and focus on your breath like this with your eyes closed for five minutes.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
When you breathe out of your nose, you most likely only breathe out of one nostril at a time. It varies from person to person, but your body changes which nostril you actually breathe out of at different times.
What’s interesting is that whichever nostril you are breathing out of might greatly affect your body and brain.
For example, breathing out of your right nostril might increase blood levels, according to a study conducted in 1988, while breathing out of your left nostril has the opposite effect. Another study found that you use more oxygen breathing through your right nostril than your left.
Practicing alternate nostril breathing can help restore your mind and body balance.
To start, sit in a comfortable, upright position. Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in slowly through the left nostril. Then close your left nostril with your index finger and release your right. Exhale slowly through your right nostril. Repeat three times.
Pursed Lips Breathing
Pursed lips breathing is excellent for people with COPD. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can help to accomplish the following:
- Reduces how hard a person has to work to breathe
- Releases air trapped in the lungs
- Promotes relaxation
- Reduces shortness of breath
To practice pursed lips breathing, close your mouth and breathe in through your nose while counting to two. Purse your lips as you would to whistle or blow out a candle, and slowly breathe out through pursed lips while counting to four. Try practicing this four to five times daily.
Pursed lips breathing can help you to perform strenuous activities, such as walking upstairs.
The Benefits of Yoga Breathing
Yoga breathing can help you achieve balance in both your body and mind. In fact, researchers have found that regularly practicing yoga breathing can have the following benefits:
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Lower and/or stabilize blood pressure
- Increase energy levels
- Relax muscles
- Decrease feelings of stress and being overwhelmed
For people with a chronic lung conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis or COPD, combatting stress and anxiety can be a daily battle. Try yoga breathing for a week and see how you feel. The resulting calmness can be transformative.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.